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10 posts from December 2012

December 28, 2012

Why more employers are offering year-end bonuses

First the good news: 

It looks like the end of the year bonus is making a comeback.

A recent national survey conducted by Challenger, Gray and Christmas found about 75 percent of private employers planned to offer some type of year-end bonus this year. That number, according to the survey, is up from 53 percent in 2011.

Julie Talenfeld, president of Boardroom Communications in Plantation, Florida, participated in that trend. She says she has given out generous holiday bonuses to well deserving staff for the past 25 years. She says she also gives 10-percent commissions on new business and employees get spot bonuses for every media hit they generate for clients every day. Julie has found giving incentives to employees creates a happier work environment.

According to the survey, 14 percent of bosses will give out money -- $100 or less -- to all employees and 13 percent will give some type of non-monetary gift as a sign of appreciation.

But not every employer agrees or wants to give out year-end bonuses: 

While there may be more happy employees as 2012 comes to an end than this time last year, the Challenger survey showed that about a fourth of the companies said there would be no bonuses this year. Bonuses are a particular rarity in public sector jobs.

Here's why some employers have gone the year-end bonus route -- they're workers are being asked to do more, more, more and bonuses are a one time boost - a way to reward employees without having to make a long-term payroll commitment. 

Now, for a reality check: 

Challenger said his company isn't projecting many changes when it comes to pay raises. Instead, he said, companies are expected to "hold down salary ranges" in 2013.

Knowing this, what are your thoughts on year end bonuses? Should employees take them and be thankful or negotiate for a raise. And, should employers give everyone the same amount as a year end bonus or should it be based on an employee's performance? 


December 26, 2012

Top Workplace Trends in 2012 and What to Look for in 2013

This was a challenging year for both employers and workers as we tried to adjust to the new norm in business -- doing more with less. Now changes are afoot from how our offices look to who runs them and what equipment will be used.             

Here are the trends we saw in 2012 and what to expect in 2013:

• Employee engagement. There’s no polite way to say it — workers have had it. In 2012 we lost our happy-to-have a job mindset and now we want appreciation. For some of us it’s been a few years since we’ve had a raise or bonus. An October survey by by MSW Research and Dale Carnegie Training found only a mere 29 percent of employees are fully engaged. Experts say if our employers want us more engaged, they need to boost our confidence in senior management and look for ways to reward us. “Companies are going to have to decide, do we want to invest in our people again?” says John Hollon, vice president for editorial at TLNT.com, which follows workplace trends. “They will need to reconnect with workers in ways haven’t had to worry about for about 5 years now.”     

• Top performers are lifelong learners. It hasn’t been easy, but American workers finally realize we need to take control of our careers. Most companies cut way back on training and on education reimbursement at the same time we discovered a need to add to our skills toolbox. Being the top sales person, or even the best doctor now means we have to keep up with new technology, trends and approaches and we have to do it on our own time and our own dime.

• Social media at work is a complicated mix. Through social media, companies now have an amazing way to market their handbags or food delivery services. But this new outlet for driving sales is also driving management crazy. As American workers turned to Facebook and Twitter to rant about cheap bosses or snotty customers, we saw employees getting fired and employers getting sued. Meanwhile labor lawyers are busy drafting social media policies for companies trying to protect themselves by letting workers know what’s acceptable. The rise of social media in the workplace isn’t likely to slow and employers will have to prepare themselves for the benefits -- and the hazards.

• Flexibility is king. Sure we want to be paid well. But more importantly, we want to know that our employers “get it.” We want the day-to-day flexibility in how, when and where we work to better manage our lives. This year, we even saw reports that claim almost half of all workers would give up some of their salary to get more flexibility. We also saw smart employers of all sizes begin to position flexible work as part of their culture. Guillermo Rotman, president of Regus Americas, predicts more businesses will offer their employees flexible work options going forward, particularly as technology untethers us from our desks.

• We’ve got to get up. This was a breakthrough year in understanding how we work affects our health. Sitting at our desks, staring at a screen all day is making us fat and unhealthy. We saw a new pressure on employers to encourage workplace heath initiatives and pay more attention to physical activity at work. And we’ve realized we need to work differently, to get up and move around because mini-breaks, just one minute long throughout the day, can actually make a difference.

• Wellness programs are on the rise. Our employer really does care if we eat that doughnut or go for the apple. In fact, he cares so much, in many instances, he’s going to pay us to lose weight or participate in a wellness program. By now, employers realize that if we engage in healthy behavior, they benefit from lower healthcare costs.  Expect this trend to get even more attention because The Affordable Care Act will expand the ability of employers to reward workers who achieve health improvement goals.

• Overtime. Is stopping on the way in for doughnuts for coworkers considered on the clock time? It could be. Companies are running into trouble with workers who claim there’s a rampant disregard for overtime pay provisions. In 2012, employees filed more than 7,000 federal lawsuits commonly known as wage-and-hour cases against their employers or former employers, records show. Losing these cases proved costly for some employers, and lawyers say they see these types of lawsuits continuing in 2013 along with a new interest in management training on what counts as a violation.

•  Boomers retiring. We’ve been told it is coming, now it is happening. Experts say 2013 is the year that kicks off a wave of boomers retiring from careers they held for decades. “Some industries already are very focused on how to replace those exiting employees,” says Jennifer Schramm, manager of workplace trends and forecasting for the Society of Human Resource Management. Others will have to work hard and fast to develop the next generation of corporate leaders. At the same time, retirement creates a need for older workers to find ways to stay productive. Look for retirees to seek out opportunities to find work that helps them contribute to the greater good or causes they care about, says Marci Alboher, VP of Encore.org and author of  The Encore Career Handbook: How to Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life. “They will be looking for opportunities to do something impactful.”

•  Newly designed workplaces. Our workspaces are changing along with our work habits. As collaboration becomes more important, we are finding that workplaces that allow for sharing ideas are the new norm — open floor plans and collaborative work environments, standing work stations and dual monitors. We also see an increasing number of co-working or shared office space and virtual offices, preparing us to say goodbye to office cubicles of the past and look forward to opportunities for better networking. And while we’re at it, we will likely be bringing our own device with us to the office of the future. A Cisco study showed a staggering 95 percent of organizations permit employee-owned devices in the workplace. This includes laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Leading organizations recognize the challenges and opportunities that these trends bring. For most, the belt tightening is over and 2013 will be the year to refocus on top talent and move forward together.


Wellness at work
 Wellness at Work (expect to see more of it!)

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/12/23/3151931_p2/the-top-workplace-trends-of-2012.html#storylink=cpy

December 21, 2012

Why taking time off is exhausting -- and great apps to help out!

I'm planning to take next week. Getting to that point has exhausted me. I can tell I'm not alone. I've had numerous conversations this week with people who seem completely crazed.

Is it worth it? Ask me next week. In the meantime, I wanted to share some apps that might help you make it through the holidays with less stress.

  • Preparing for the feast: ZipList, the universal digital recipe box and meal planner, has a mobile app that will help you save time and money at the grocery store. The app syncs seamlessly to every device and more than 8000 food websites to make sure you never forget anything on your trips to the store. It even sends users personalized recipe and shopping list
    recommendations based on their eating preferences.
  • Better yet, the new Grocery Deals function on ZipList can send in-store specials straight to your phone - no coupons needed!  Now when you look at your list as you head to the grocer, you’ll see where to save on meats and fresh produce, the aisles where you can’t find
    coupon savings and the items that make up the bulk of your bill!
  • Best-in-show recipes: Epicurious is the gold standard for online recipes, but accessing said recipes when you need them the most (i.e. elbow deep in a turkey) can be tricky. The Epicurious mobile app, available on nearly every tablet and mobile phone, keeps your go-to’s and ambitious holiday recipes closer at hand.
  • Cooking like a pro: You’re armed with recipes, but now you want to make sure to get that pumpkin creme brulee just right. The Professional Chef by the Culinary Institute of America is a cooking school within an app, providing step-by-step video instruction on everything from
    basic knife skills to perfecting your signature coq au vin.
  • Setting the scene: Holiday decorating can easily get out of control. Keep it simple yet festive with tasteful tips and inspiration from the free Martha Stewart Living iPad app.
  • Feeling the burn: Once the holiday cheer wears off, the Lose It! app can help you get back in gear by helping you meet your health and wellness goals. Aside from weight loss,  the app marks goals for sleep, nutritional concerns, and other things that can easily go off-track during the holidays.

Working Mother Magazine also has a list of shopping apps I found helpful. Here are a few:

  • Finding the best value is a snap with Barcode Reader. Just take a photo of the product’s barcode and the app will show you the lowest prices in local stores and online (free, itunes.com).
  • Speed up bargain hunting with Pic2Shop. Point the camera at a product’s barcode and instantly find thousands of online and local store prices, plus user reviews and product info (free, itunes.com)
  • Get the holiday food-shopping haul done faster with this app, which stores grocery lists on your phone, checks off items with a scan and categorizes them by aisle. It can even sync with your spouse’s phone to get the list tackled faster (free, itunes.com).
  • Head to the mall without a paper list this year. This app conveniently keeps track of all the info you need, including the gift, recipient, price, date and store, all while updating your set budget (free, itunes.com).



December 19, 2012

Why you need to make face time with your clients in 2013

Last week I was having a conversation with a senior executive who told me he hadn't seen his stock broker in person in two years and hadn't even spoken to him on phone. So even though his stocks were performing well, he moved his entire account to someone who had come to see him face-to-face. 
If you've spent 2012 thinking you have a strong relationship with a client who you haven't visited with in person, you might want to change that up in the new year. Whether or not they act like they want to see you face-to-face, if you're not making it happen, that account is at risk. Below is my Miami Herald article on the topic. I have to admit, I do wonder as the Millennials age, if they will have any expectations of face to face meetings. Your thoughts?




Work/Life Balancing Act

Don’t be a stranger: Many prefer face-to-face meetings

Business owners and executives have a message for their service providers: Communication by email and texting can leave you faceless.
Business owners and executives have a message for their service providers: Communication by email and texting can leave you faceless.


Holiday time can bring you in contact with customers or clients you may not see the rest of the year. But if you’re expecting to be greeted with cheer you may be surprised.

Frustrated business owners and senior executives say they are turned off by being the customers of a service provider who communicates mostly by email.

Although that type of communication is efficient, a CEO recently told me, “I see them as a commodity — faceless and easy to replace.”

More often, executives complain, they have never even met face to face the actual person on their account — a lawyer, accountant, account executive — leaving them asking: Is this the new way of doing business?

Alejandro Fernandez, a senior executive at a Florida industrial parts company, says he hasn’t seen a few of his service providers all year and won’t let that happen again in 2013.

“I’m not saying I need to go to lunch with you every day but if I’m dealing with you for a year, come out and meet me,” he says. “How do they know all the issues they could be addressing if they are just answering the question I ask?”

Of course, business owners and high level managers are busy, and many time-pressed clients even will say they prefer texting to emails or calls.

Michelle Eisner, chief HR and talent officer with Hollander Home Fashions in Boca Raton, says she knows and trusts the initial contact at the law firm she uses, but spends much of her time working with attorneys there she has never met — and that’s OK with her as long as they are “responsive” and their email communication is “short and to the point.”

Eisner says she travels often and even getting her on the phone is challenging. “I want to work with someone who is able to put a decision or opinion in writing and feel comfortable with that.”

But workplace experts say don’t mistake an interest in efficiency for lack of interest in face-to-face interaction.

Jeff Connally, president and CEO of CMIT Solutions, provides information technology services to small business and has 135 offices, including one in Miami. Connally visits his customers a minimum of once a quarter and requires his franchisees do the same. He attributes the company’s high retention of customers to the on-site visits. “We think it’s vital because people do business with people they know and trust.”

Connally says the visits open the door for cross-selling opportunities that email communicators miss out on. His managers will analyze calls that come into the help desk and bring ideas to the client. Visiting in person allows him to understand the company culture, management style and business needs. “As we listen, we find opportunities to deepen the relationship.”

Consultant Jerry Wilson, a recently retired board-elected senior vice president of the Coca-Cola company, recommends knowing how and why to ask a senior executive for face time. “You need to understand the valid business reason. If you’re just asking someone to lunch to plug your company, that can be seen as a time waster and that hurts relations. Also, meeting with a client to ask “how are we doing?” will be seen as a time waster, he says. Instead, do some homework first and bring ideas for how you can help them grow their business or tackle a concern. “That shows a CEO you care about the relationship.”

Read more....


December 17, 2012

Work life balance in the wake of the Newtown shooting

For many of us, Friday was a life changing day. More than a dozen children went to elementary school that morning in Newtown and were dead before lunch. 

While the shooting happened, we sat at our desks, going about our work days and discovered once again that families lives can change horribly in just a few hours. For the last few days, I have thought about those mothers and fathers who had settled into their work routines on Friday, only to hear the news reports or receive a text and learn that their children were in harm's way. It makes me cringe.

Ask a  parent, his or her priorities and most will tell you their families take the top spot. But in the day to day grind of meeting work deadlines, pleasing the boss or responding to emails at all hours, it has become easy to stay a bit later at the office or ignore a child tugging on our sleeve for attention.

I'm reminded in the wake of Newtown that work life balance is about living without regret. Please notice I didn't say guilt.

Just last week, I felt so horrible, so guilty about missing my son's award ceremony at school because of a work conflict. As a working parent, it is impossible to avoid missing some event in your child's life and guilt becomes a way of life.

But as Newtown's grieving parents show us, it's the big picture that counts. 

We need to ask ourselves: Do you I make the most out of the time I spend with my siblings, parents, children, friends, spouse? Are there small changes that could improve the quality and quantity of that time? What would I regret if I didn't have tomorrow with my loved one?

CNN reports that on Friday, Diana Licata was supposed to go to the school later to help build a gingerbread house in her son Aiden's class. She told her husband, who was working from home Friday, that maybe he should go instead. Aiden would love to have Daddy come to class.

Robert planned to be in Victoria Soto's classroom at 2 in the afternoon.

In another Newtown house, 6-year-old Emilie Parker woke up to say goodbye to her father, Robbie, before he left for work at a local hospital.

He had been teaching Portuguese to his daughter, and she practiced by saying "bom dia" (good morning) and asking how he was.

Emilie told her daddy she loved him and gave him a kiss. Then Robbie Parker dashed out the door.

These are parents who are just like us, were struggling with the balance in earning a living and being there for their kids. As technology erodes boundaries, customers grow more demanding, and bosses pile on the work, think of the parents in Newtown and have the courage and discipline to stay true to your priorities. What they wouldn't give to have their child tugging on their sleeve once again!



December 14, 2012

Work life balance, holidays, divorce -- managing it all

Divorce and kids


As a child of divorced parents, I remember my mom and dad arguing every holiday season over how they will make their work schedules fit in with who gets us kids on which holidays. My dad, a doctor, was often on call so keeping set days was tricky and, the negotiations often got ugly. 

Today, my guest blogger, Barry Finkel who shares his wisdom on how to keep family peace during the holiday season. Barry  is the founding partner of The Law Firm of  Barry I. Finkel P.A., a divorce and family law practice in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, focused on serving the needs of the entire family. .

By now, you should know which vacation days you will be able to use or which days your workplace will be closed. If you or your former spouse need to switch or negotiate remember civility: "The key question is 'Do I love my child more than I hate my ex?'"

Barry says:   "The most important thing to keep in mind is the best interests of your child. A lot of times divorce is highly emotional, and the vision of what is really important gets cloudy."

While he acknowledges that last minute issues arise, here is his advice for how to balance work, kids and divorce during the holiday season:

Barry_Finkel_050-minThe holidays are upon us. Even for families of divorce dealing with time sharing and child custody arrangements, this can be a season of joy. With some advance planning, cooperation and flexibility, the children can enjoy quality holiday time with both parents.


It’s important that the divorce settlement’s child custody or time sharing arrangement be flexible enough to reflect and respect the family’s new reality. Assuming that’s the case, the following tips can help ensure everyone enjoys the holiday season together:



-          Focus on the kids. With all the following suggestions, keep the kids’ needs and emotions foremost in mind when making any changes to the time-sharing agreement. If issues or conflict arise, step back and seek compromise.


-          Plan ahead. As much as possible, parents should plan their holiday festivities around the existing time-sharing schedule. The normalcy and regularity of the existing schedule provides stability – especially for younger children.


-          Divide the day. If the families traditionally celebrate Christmas day, split the day in half, with one parent getting Christmas morning one year, and afternoon / evening the next. The same should be applied for New Years. Same goes for other holidays, like Hanukkah. With eight days, families have eight opportunities to celebrate.


-          Share the celebration. If the family historically has shared a holiday dinner, gift exchange or other ritual the kids have come to expect, continue the practice – assuming the parents can get along.


-          Meet the needs of out-of-town family. Grandparents and other family members have no inherent rights regarding time-sharing. If extended family has flown in for the holidays, however, parents should agree to relax time-sharing.


-          Get away. Whether through the timesharing terms or mutual agreement, it’s permissible for one parent to travel during the holidays without the children. If this is the first special holiday you will be alone, don’t put a guilt trip on your child.  Get out with friends, or volunteer at a hospital or food bank.


-          Always keep the children’s needs and expectations in mind. Observing or maintaining past traditions provides stability to the kids. Limit shuttling from one parent’s home to the other’s. Be flexible. Have fun.




December 12, 2012

When does workplace stress turn into burnout?

All of us have workplace stress of some sort -- maybe we're dealing with a demanding boss or a mounting pile of paperwork. And then there's technology, making it more difficult to disconnect.

But there's that line when crossed turns stress into distress.

Today, one of the most respected medical professionals in the country weighs in on stress and provides some insight on how he recommends his patients better cope with it.

Readers, I hope you find this helpful and if you have ways of coping with stress that work for you, please share!


Work/Life Balancing Act

Tips for managing workplace stress


Many of us struggle with stress, but some cross over into the danger zone. The telltale sign: a near or complete lack of work-life balance.



Get Adobe Flash player                           

Stress at a glance

• Health problems linked to stress include heart attack, obesity, depression, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome and diabetes.

• Common traits of burnout are excessive devotion to work and productivity at the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships; inability to delegate tasks.

• Symptoms of burnout: chronic fatigue, cynicism, emotional exhaustion, failure to take time off, headaches and explosions of anger.

• Almost a third of all workers feel “extremely stressed” at work. About 14 percent of workers felt like striking a coworker in the past year, but didn’t.

Sources: The American Institute of Stress; Charles Nemeroff, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.






            There are end of the year deals to close, budgets to meet, gifts to buy, and just thinking about it has your stress level rising. But when does stress turn into distress and at what point should your employer intervene?

For American workers, coping with workplace stress is a year-round concern that employers are beginning to see as partly their responsibility. Three-fourths of employees believe that workers have more on-the-job stress than a generation ago and nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage it, an Attitudes in the American workplace study by the American Institute of Stress shows.

Most of us harried workers struggle with the daily pressure of time demands, but some cross over into the danger zone. The telltale sign that a breakdown is near is a complete lack of work-life balance.      

“Often these are the people working 14 hours a day and expecting others to do it, too,” said Charles Nemeroff, chairman of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “I’ll ask them when is the last time you had fun and they look at me like are you kidding?”

Service professionals such as lawyers, financial advisors, accountants and doctors particularly are susceptible with increased client demands and technology making it more difficult to shut off job stress. Often they push themselves harder and harder to achieve.

Attorney Harley Tropin, a shareholder at Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton, just doesn’t see that formula leading to a long career. He wants to help his lawyers strive for balance and change the way their brains and bodies react to stressors. Last month, he brought in medical experts to help them identify stressors and learn coping skills such as breathing and meditation. “It’s important to deal with stress the right way, to make a conscious effort to do something about it and not assume it will take care of itself,” Tropin says.

Tropin personally defuses the stress of arguing in court, by practicing Mindful Meditation, a widely adopted form of meditation that has become increasingly popular with business leaders. It involves focusing on your mind on the present and becoming aware of your breathing.

Alan Gold, a federal judge for the Southern District of Florida, also practices mindfulness meditation and has become a proponent of teaching practices for stress reduction to attorneys. Gold has advocated for the creation of a task force on the mindful practice of law with the Dade County Bar Association and the local Federal Bar Association.

Gold says he regularly sees attorneys shuffle into his courtroom on the brink of a breakdown. He links erosion in the degree of civility in the profession with lawyers’ inability to cope with extreme stresses.

They may lash out in anger at a co-worker, assistant, client — or even a judge.

“If you recognize you’re in this situation, the next step is to get out of it. The quickest and simplest way is to slow down and take time to focus on your breathing. This is not something that comes naturally for lawyers. It’s counterproductive to their bottom line way of doing business,” he says.

Outside of meditation, some employers are turning to on-site yoga, or just simply workload management to help employees better manage stress. At Kane & Company, a South Florida CPA firm, employees recently learned from a psychologist how to become more effective controlling their job-related stress. Suggestions included breathing exercises, exercise in general and focusing on relaxation techniques. Monte Kane, the firm’s managing director, says the workshops help his staff with everyday stress, but he makes it his responsibility to know when they have entered the burnout zone.


December 10, 2012

Encourage more women on boards on 12-12-12

If we want products and services that reflect how we think and what we need, women should be concerned with companies that exclude us from their corporate boards. 

But this week, on 12/12/12 at 12 p.m. all of us can make a difference. Across the country, 2020 Women on Boards is hosting luncheons to rally support for their efforts to get more women on boards by 2020. In Florida, Women Executive Leadership is hosting the lunch event. Romaine Seguin, President of UPS Americas will speak about her experience as a Director and why it is so important for women to have representation in America's boardrooms.

I will be at the WEL event in Miami moderating the discussion and taking questions and suggestions from the audience for how to move the needle to see more women in leadership.

Lunch events will be going on in 27 cities and women and men have signed up to be part of this pretty cool event.  Sign up to be a part of the 12-12-12 event in your city.

Today, ION issued its 2012 Report on women's progress on corporate boards. The report, Follow the Leaders: It can Happen Here profiles 11 corporations that have experienced financial success and made boardroom gender diversity a high-priority business initiative.  Tomorrow, Catalyst issues its report: the Catalyst 2012 Census of Fortune 500: No Change for Women in Top Leadership seven years and counting. 

Both reports show a lack of progress in moving the women into top leadership along with suggestions for change. Fortunately, we're seeing some attention on this very important issue!



December 08, 2012

How to strike work life balance as an entrepreneur

I consider myself somewhat of an entrepreneur but one day I hope to have a booming business with employees. For now, I'm on my own and I'm watching closely as others choose the entrepreneurial path. As glamouous as it sounds, I've seen that entrepreurship comes with challenges -- particularly strking a work life balance.

Today, Michael Castilla is my guest blogger and shares his work/life experiences as startup founder, student, specialist,and ultimately as an entrepreneur born and raised in Miami, FL by a
middle-class Cuban family. Connect with him @micr0bitz.




Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/worklifebalancingact/#storylink=cpy

An entrepreneur, regardless of age, has to make very important and usually risky decisions. The earlier you realize who you are and are able to establish long-term goals, the earlier you are able to establish a path for yourself. I've made many important decisions over the past few years that have influenced my path, and I've narrowed down 4 key opportunities and experiences I'd like to share with other aspiring entrepreneurs.

1. Identifying myself as an entrepreneur


Identifying myself as an entrepreneur was a big deal. I've been involved with technology and business for the past five years, but only within the past two years have I been able to truly discover my inner entrepreneur. Where could he have been hiding? This wasn't my first hurdle, but it was crucial for every other step in my career to happen.

What is the definition of entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.  -Howard Stevenson

Upon making this realization, I've been able to create more opportunities for myself. Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle.

Now with this new word in my head, I've been able to search for entrepreneur-related terms, which has lead to me to explore new and exciting content I never knew existed, right at my finger tips. The Internet is a beautiful thing.

By the definition above, this pursuit of opportunity may sound risky. How can you pursue something you're not entirely sure about? You would be surprised that you can make a career out of taking risks and following your passions. The key idea to take from this definition is that entrepreneurship is an opportunity.

Lesson: Define who you are and never look back.

The path of an entrepreneur sure is bumpy, but it's most definitely satisfying. My only regret is that I didn't realize who I was at a younger age. I hope any aspiring students who read this will be motivated to identify themselves as early as possible.

When your teachers and parents tell you "be the best you can be", what they really mean is you have the opportunity to be whoever you want and to do something you really love and to not let anyone stop you, including them.

2. Pursuing a career following my passions


Next up, do you know someone unsatisfied with their job? It happens to majority of the American working population.

Upon my senior year or high school, I had collected enough resources and networking via the Internet to decide to pursue a career following my passions as, what I consider myself today, a Freelance Digital Craftsman. It's a semi-broad title, but it means I create digital stuff for different companies. I was fond of the idea of making money in your boxers from your laptop. I've recently decided to go full-time with this career, but just a year ago, I was an unmotivated college student who literally couldn't wait to graduate.

Ultimately, I've been taking my 20's seriously. I've decided to take the next 10 years (crap, that's a lot) to get good at this tech stuff. My visions for technology are great and I believe I can make a successful career from these passions.

Lesson: Believe in your passions and relevant opportunities will present themselves.

I'm fortunate to have had my sights set on technology and business since middle school and not a day goes by where I'm not involved with either. Because I'm passionate about these areas and I'm pursuing them as a career, I have the opportunity to not have to commit to a job that doesn't interest me.

3. Moving to a central location within Miami

I had the opportunity to temporarily live on South Beach this past summer and I jumped on it immediately. This opened up my eyes to local business opportunities and allowed me to realize the potential of the community I've been living in my entire life.

Since then I've moved into a house in Little Havana, where I've had much easier access to Brickell and Wynwood, two of the hottest districts in Miami right now.

I was previously living with my parents in Kendall. There were many benefits to running a home-based startup, especially since I had no commute, rent was free, high-speed Internet, and my parents were there to support me. What more could you ask for?

But asides from those great benefits, I was spending too much time at my desk behind my computer, away from all the real action. I yearned for more work experience and engagement with other like-minded people.

If you're eager for creating connections, you should interact with many people on a day to day basis both off and online.

Lesson: Conquer local, before global. Take advantage of the invaluable resources in your own city. Research products created by local startups and find out who's hiring. Not everything you can find locally can be found online.

4. Becoming a member of a co-working space


I'm proud to say that that Miami now offers a variety of co-working spaces. This leads me to the latest and most important decision I've made this year. I recently became a flex member of Pipeline Brickell, a professional co-working space on the 8th floor of South Tower. On the first day they opened, I showed up with a big smile, met the staff, and signed up! Up until my first visit, I had been following their social media presence but after a tour of the facilities, I was literally sold.

Since joining just last month, I've already become more connected within Miami than I've been my entire life living here. I attended their official launch party in early November, which was very successful and has already lead to new opportunities. Since making these moves, it's been very enjoyable to work so close to home. I can park my car in Mary Brickell Village and walk a few blocks over to Pipeline.

I'm also particularly excited about The LAB Miami's big expansion to their own warehouse. They're hosting HackDay at their new facilities in December, but they're officially opening January 2013. Once they're up and running, they will have the potential to really capture Miami's potential and put our talent to good work.

Lesson: Like-minded people come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.

My Current Life/Work Balance

If the concept of a 9-5 position makes you cringe, this should make you smile. The freedom of an freelance entrepreneur's work schedule is highly attractive, leaving more time for family and friends, but there are still only 24 hours in a day. As an entrepreneur, you have the opportunity to be creative with your schedule, as long as you're still putting in the hours.

Daily exercise and a smart diet have also attributed to a healthy work/life balance. As a freelancer, you come to learn staying health is very important for business. In no way have I chosen the path of least resistance. I haven't necessarily chosen to create my own path, but I have chosen a path least followed. You don't always have to re-invent the wheel, sometimes just spinning it will do the trick.

Most importantly, I've realized no one is going to make these decisions or create these opportunities for me. The younger you get involved with problem solving, whether it be parking issues in the city or complex programming design patterns, the more prepared you will be to make important decisions down any path you decide to create or follow.

As an entrepreneur, you're the key player on your team, the ball is always in your court, you're a referee, and a goalie. There are very little rules in this game and no one tells you what to do or how to do it. Create your own opportunities!

If this article sparks any interest in you, please don't hesitate to contact me with questions or comments. I would love to hear from you! michaelcastilla.com / @micr0bitz


December 04, 2012

Why aren't women lawyers reaching the top of their firms in pay and respect?

Years ago, the American Bar Association saw cause for concern. There were lots of female lawyers but much fewer female partners. So they set up a commission to look into why.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to talk to Patricia Gillette, a member of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession. I was prompted into a discussion with her by a gender discrimination lawsuit filed yesterday in federal court in New York against Miami's Greenberg Traurig, one of the 250 largest law firms in the country.

The lawsuit made various bold claims against Greenberg.

FranFormer shareholder Francine Friedman Griesing alleges that Greenberg pays women less, promotes them at lower rates than men and virtually freezes them out from high-level managerial positions. She says women at the firm are denied their fair share of origination credit and internal referrals. Griesing also says although she was a partner, the firm's three tiered equity structure classified her into the lowest level, while less qualified men were put in the higher, more lucrative levels. She is seeking to represent a class of current and former women shareholders at the firm. 


Her claims of gender bias were concerns I've heard before, raised by women at various large law firms including Greenberg Traurig.

So I asked Patricia her thoughts on whether women are making real progress advancing at the country's law firms and whether pervasive gender inequity remains a problem. Patricia mentioned that the current ABA President Laurel Bellows initiated a gender equity task force this year to address bias against and equal pay for women in law.

Patricia said in recent years, the tiered partnership -- equity and non equity -- has been problem for women lawyers. It has been a way for large law firms to claim they have women partners but hide the fact that they are not promoting women into equity positions where they truly share in the profits and management decisions.

In October, the National Association of Women Lawyers came out with an revealing report:

  • It found that law firm structure has important effects on women's career paths and that they have a greater chance of becoming equity partner in one-tiered firms. Meanwhile, women are increasing clustered in positions with little opportunity for advancement in law firm leadership.


  • It also found women's compensation lags men's at all levels with the greatest discrepancy at the equity partner level, where women typically earn only 89% of what men make. The gap between the median compensation of male and female equity partners cannot be explained by differences in billable hours, total hours, or books of business.


Gillette says the ABA gender equity task force wants firms to rethink way they consider compensation, making it less subjective. A goal is to create a model law firm compensation policy to ensure women are paid equally to men.

“This has been sacred ground and firms don’t want anyone messing with compensation, but closed systems like Greenberg lead to mischief. We think putting transparency into compensation systems is imperative going forward,” she said.

Don't expect firms to readily buy in.

At Greenberg, all compensation decisions are made by CEO Richard Rosenbaum, with input from other shareholders.

Greenberg's Hilarie Bass said the firm’s compensation system has always been based on meritocracy that has nothing to do with gender. “We’re compensated based on value to clients and quality of our legal work. We prefer a closed system because it enables a more collegial atmosphere to exist.” Bass also said every year the the number of women who are big originators of new business increases as does the number of women who receive top compensation.

Still, with a closed system, it's difficult for women at the firm to confirm that to be true.

Gillette said this lawsuit may help Greenberg and other firms realize they need to work harder on getting more women into positions of leadership. While she acknowledges that there are some women lawyers who don't want to reach the top tier at their firms, she says many do. “We’ve been talking and begging firms to look at these issues for so long,” Gillette said. “I’m sorry it takes a lawsuit for firms to think about this but lawsuits are the only thing lawyers understand." 

Do you believe gender discrimination is present at big law firms? How much of pay inequity and lack of advancement is from women pulling back, seeking better work life balance, and how much of it is the way law firms are managed and structured?